Court Costs, Fines, Bonds, What’s the Difference?


Do the Crime – You’ll Not Only Do the Time, but You’ll Pay for It

Monroe County TN Court Costs, Fines and BondsAccording to several law enforcement officers and personnel in the local court system, there appears to be some confusion in the system regarding court costs, fines, and bonds and what each one represents and why it’s a part of the legal process that follows you when you are arrested.

As an example, a female victim of a local theft in August learned the suspect who burglarized her home had been released from custody on a $5,000 bond. She became upset, thinking the “bond” had been an “inside payoff” to settle the theft, while her lost property due to the theft had gone unrecovered.

Afterward, the BUZZ spoke with county officials and gathered facts on how a person going through jail and court confronts the costs of getting back on track and putting a misbegotten mistake in the rear view mirror.

First, when a person is arrested and charged with a violation or offense, he or she can remain in jail until a court appearance, or else address a bond posted on his or her behalf can be paid and he or she will be released from custody if the bond is paid. The bond, whether provided by a bondsman, a friend, or a family member, is a “guarantee” the defendant, you, will show up in court. Nothing more. Just show up.

Up to $10,000, cash is fine for a bond. If a bondsman is used, the charge to the defendant is ten percent. If the defendant comes up with the money, he or she will get it back after the court process.

Over $10,000, a defendant will need a bondsman or a deed of trust for property and granddad, say, will have to put up the farm or lose it when you fail to come to court.

Now, number two, the fine.

It’s a sum of money exacted as a “penalty” for your alleged misdeed. Say you rob a bank and the cops catch you and the court finds you guilty, you’ll most likely draw a term in jail or prison, for example ten years, and a fine. On top of the restitution of the $25,000 you stole from the bank’s safe – restitution, meaning the return of the money – the court will “fine” you for the theft.

A “fine” is part of your punishment, just like being locked up is.

Three, court costs. These are the trickiest. These sums are authorized by the state to pay the court for having to fool around with you for breaking the law. One court official told the BUZZ that “the law tells us what to do,” what to charge, what to make you pay so the courts can keep on running.

Court costs go the state litigation tax, the county litigation tax, and “special” taxes (no one knows what these are). The court staff gets a cut of your court costs, the clerk gets a cut, and so on. And you have to pay. The costs remain on the books forever or until they’re paid off.

To look closer, let’s say you get a DUI on Halloween or New Years Eve. You’re arrested. Your bond is $1,000. Mr. Bondsman comes to your rescue, but you have to front him ten percent, or $100.

In court you plead. The fine in $365. That’s part of you punishment, in addition to 48 hours in the hole, a year’s probation, which will cost you – what is it now? – $45 per month, loss of driver’s license for a year, and DUI school. That’s right, DUI SCHOOL.

The kicker here is that some drivers like to wear out general sessions court and reset their cases again and again and finally waiver them to criminal court. This is a bad decision, but DUI suspects are usually good at bad decisions. Bad in that court costs for DUI in general sessions court come to $468.

In criminal court, the DUI costs are $973.50. A typical meth charge fine in general sessions is in $750. In criminal court, it increases to $2,000, judge’s discretion, of course.

To summarize, a bond assures a court appearance. A fine is what one gets for being naughty. Court costs are what grease the wheels.



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